Category Archives: sailing family

How we make it work… as a long term sailing family.

I know its been a while since we’ve put out an actual sailing post. I think I’m almost a year behind!!!  Our last sailing post was  about Suwarrow.  Hopefully soon, a post about  sailing in Tonga (Sept-Oct, 2018) will explode from my brain and onto the blog.  It will come. For now, however, I do want to share a write up that I did for another blog/podcast.  Sometimes having someone give a prompt helps the writers block and motivation.  It is sailing related, but not limited to any particular location within our sailing journey.  Hope you enjoy.

That’s a great question, HOW DO WE WANT TO LIVE EVERY DAY?! And how do we make that possible?!

HOW DO WE STRATEGIZE? This question was brought up by a dear friend, Whitney Archibald, writer and podcast extraordinaire of  How She Moms  regarding how we strategize with parenting on the boat. (Click the link above to see our response and listen to the podcast with a few on my answers along with a few other Mum inputs). But this question wasn’t just about parenting style, when a fellow boat parent on S/V Mahi approached me with the question of how we manage to do this long term cruising thing from a financial standpoint for the Kids4sail June 2019 Newsletter, I realised that this “parenting strategizing”  extended beyond parenting on a day to day basis. The bigger picture was how do we strategize to live the life we want to offer our kids. How do we go cruising in order to raise our kids the way we would like them to be raised?  For most people, including us, the biggest challenge of cruising was figuring out how we would manage it financially.

 

When we first were thinking about sailing the world with our children, not necessarily around, we were faced with a few big questions. The biggest,  “HOW DO WE MAKE CRUISING WORK LONG TERM?” Many factors play into that, but the primary one people get caught up in when thinking about leaving their “current life” is figuring out how they can afford to do it financially.  There are some blogs that write about cruising budgets, but its hard to grasp the idea that cruising really is affordable when not many people are willing to share their financial information and the people that do might not have the same budget you would have.  Their are a few other topics are worthy of their own post, such as questions centred around education/boat-schooling, and how do you cruise and co-parent, with a blended his, hers, and ours like we have on our boat. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll leave those aspects out of this write-up and stick to finances. 

Along our journey, we have met many others who have shared their very different ways of making cruising work from a financial standpoint.  Like myself, there are a few nurses, but only a few.  There are some teachers, computer tech related fields and other various professions.  Most families out there cruising long term are still working in some way or form. Not many have been able to free themselves from the full work load completely. With an open mind to various possibilities, we, A FAMILY AFLOAT, have found ways to make it work up to this point and plan to continuing doing so.  I could not imagine our life any other way than as a cruising family.

Lets first start by defining what a “cruiser” is. Someone who has left their “home” to sail around afar (this could be in the same country or foreign) for an extended period of time. There are all sorts of different sub-species of cruisers. Those who sail seasonally, meaning they do a few months of sailing away from home, and the other months back at home. There are those who just take a year (or just a season) or two off and squeeze in what they can and then go back to “home”. Those who leave for longer periods, and those who leave with an open ended plan. We left with an open ended plan of “we’ll make it work along the way and keep going as long as it’s working”.  We left San Francisco in August, 2015 and slowly  (over 3.5 years) made our way to New Zealand so far.

When Christian and I got married in 2010, we had already agreed that we would one day go cruising with the kids. Originally we were thinking of leaving around 2019, but in 2014, when we  assessed our lives and our finances, we came to the conclusion that the opportunity to leave would open up for us for mid 2015.  I was the primary income source with my nursing career in San Francisco.  We were very fortunate to have a good steady income while Christian prepped the boat, raised the children and helped with schooling.  He is trained and skilled in carpentry (ground to finish work),  but when we blended our family and had another kid, it made the most sense for him to leave that job to take care of the “boatstead”.  I worked three 12 hour shifts a week and focused any extra money toward the cruising kitty.   We had already been living on our current boat  (S/V Shawnigan) since 2012 and paid it off by 2014, so it was just a matter of  putting enough savings into our “cruising kitty” account for at least one year’s worth of sailing.

Our costs were already relatively low, but there were a few changes we new we had to make in order to save enough in that next year. Six months prior to leaving, we pulled the kids out of private school to acclimate them to home-school life and in turn saved $$$. If you have the means to do this before you leave, we highly recommend it.  4 months prior to leaving, we moved Shawnigan out of the harbor we had been living in for the past 4.5 years and “anchored out” in the free anchorage.  This options isn’t for everybody, but worth it if you can.  Not only did we save quite a bit  of $ by being anchored out, it allowed us to get use to what life was like not being able to just step off onto the dock or dry land whenever one wanted to. It was hard work. I would wake up at 4:45 am, kayak to shore in clothes that could get wet, then ride my bike 13 miles to work to do a 12 hour shift at the hospital. I wouldn’t get home until 9:30pm at the earliest on those days.  But the hard work paid off.  Don’t forget, the extra little things add up. We ate out less and started getting rid of our extra stuff, including cars and bikes. By August, 2015 we had $20,000 in our cruising kitty and the same amount in an “emergency found”.  It allowed us to leave to go cruising with our kids and experience the world!

We kept a budget in mind while out cruising. Its easy to get into “vacation mode” and spend spend spend. Based on experience and hearing about it from others, we knew we wouldn’t be going out to dinner much and spending $ on extra sightseeing activities like some cruisers do.  A sacrifice worth making and was a challenge at time. We seemed to start out great, especially in Mexico. But as we met more people with an extended budget and as we sailed through more expensive countries it proved to be more of a challenge.  There were many times where we opted out of the group dinner out or the group sight seeing tour simply because we couldn’t afford to be spending money like that.  Trips like the Galapagos, I intentionally worked a few extra shifts on the previous travel nurse assignment in order for us to go there and enjoy a few dinners out and a tour or two their.

Assessing funds and making them along the way:  As our first year neared its marker, we knew it was time to refill the kitty.  As a nurse, I’ve always kept it a possibility to pick up travel nursing assignments throughout our sailing journey.  These are usually 13 week contracts that you agree upon with a travel nurse company. We figured hurricane season would be a good time for me to hop off the boat and work back in the U.S.. The family stayed on the boat a bit longer, but also took this time to come back to the States. As life tends to always change, just like the wind and the seas, that work stent ended up being 6 months, 4 of which we were all together in the States. Our boat was safe and secure during that time, in San Carlos, Mexico. The next year, was similar. We cruised for 9 months and then I  returned back up to the States for another Travel Nurse assignment. This one lasted 4 months, in which during that time the family stayed on the boat, explored the Sea of Cortez, and visited the States for 1 month. The next year, we made it 10 1/2 months before returning to work. The Shawnigan crew sailed from Mexico to Panama, to the Galapagos, and crossed the Pacific Ocean, explored French Polynesia, a blip in the Cook Islands, and 6 weeks in Tonga. From Tonga I flew out for my last Travel Nurse assignment… for now.

Upon arriving to Tonga, we assessed our kitty and decided that even though the plan was to work in New Zealand, I should fly back to the States for one more assignment. This was by far the hardest choice to make and to actually do. I would be away from the family to work for 13 weeks, but the payoff was great.  Sometime, mid Tonga, I had a phone interview with the hospital in Wellington. I was offered the job, given the info I needed for a work visa, and given permission to delay my start date until mid January while I waited for my work visa to go through and completed my travel assignment in the U.S.  In the meantime Christian and the kids sailed, with the help of our friend Nick, from Tonga down to New Zealand.  He then took the next few months, sailing solo with the kids,  down to Wellington, where we are all at now…on the boat, in a marina…schooling… working… refilling the kitty…. for the next leg of our sailing journey.

At this point we are uncertain how long we will stay in New Zealand… we just want to keep everyone on their toes.

img_1904

Group shot (minus Ellamae, who was already back in the US with her biological father) of the family taking me to airport in Tonga to fly out for a travel nursing assignment in California.

img_2566

Fun Facebook Video calls with the kids made it tolerable.

img_2082

And a few photos revisited from along the journey.

img_2869-1img_3475IMG_694130473088_unknownimg_7590img_7820img_827731789264_unknownScreenshot (202)

 

 

May 2018 …. love the sea plastic free with @afamilyafloat!

Just a quick Iphone video made up from last May’s (2018) memories with an ocean ambassador slant to it. Just like a Tattoo… what we put on our body lasts forever… what plastic we use on this lovely planet has a lasting effect… think long and hard about what you want for Mother Earth before you put it there to last forever!

 

A few links to guide your inner Ocean Ambassador:

Toturga Bay Experience

SloActive Plastic Pollution Guide

Love the Sea Plastic Free

Ocean Ambassadors

 

Suwarrow – Cook Islands

From Maupiti we set sail for Suwarrow, not certain that we would actually stop there. 5 days and 700 miles later, we made landfall  August 22nd, 2018.

Suwarrow is one of the most northern of the 15 Cook Islands, which are self governing, but in free association with New Zealand. Its a bit out of the way, but on the way to Tonga. We had the option of going the rhumb (straight) line from Maupiti to Tonga, take the more southern route to Palmerston, or take the more northern route to Suwarrow. Most of our cruising friends that left before us went to Suwarrow and raved about it. A few went to Palmerston, but history has it as a fair weather only stop, and the weather was not predicted to be so fair.  And rather than doing a straight shot 1,200 miles to Tonga, we opted to aim toward Suwarrow, keep and eye on the weather and as long as it was looking good to stop, we would.

Sail by the wind Jellies that we caught
and released. Their real name is Velella Velella . Also known as sea raft, by-the-wind sailor, purple sail, little sail, or simply Velella .

Our departure from Maupiti was seamless. We made it out the pass and turned west. The wind was great, perfect for the asymmetrical. We had her flying for a while, it was smooth sailing.  Then the wind started to pick up and as I was saying to Christian that we should probably take down the A-sail, we heard a tearing sound. The sail completely tore down the center and across the top. We quickly got it down and unfurled the jib.  The unfortunate part of this, besides loosing our A-sail, was that we had already took down our 150 genoa sail and exchanged it for the 120. The shape of our 120 is great and it made for a more comfortable sail, but our speed wasn’t what it could be if we had the 150 out. No matter though, the next day the wind picked up more and the 120 was more than enough. We made it to Suwarrow. The wind was strong as we came in. Bajka was already there, as well as La Cigale.

Good night sun and good bye asymmetrical 😦

The Island was beautiful! We had heard that it was watched over by two Rangers (caretakers), Harry and John. We got a very warm welcome from these two men, when they motored their skiff out to our boat to check us in to the country. After talking with them we learned that they get brought in on a supply ship with supplies from one of the southern islands called Rarotonga, the largest Cook Island, and stay for 6-7 months at a time without re-supply.  These two rangers were so awesome. They had the best attitudes, and were so kind to share “their space” with us cruisers. Many nights they allowed us to have potlucks and bonfires on the beach and would join us for the fun. Most nights included musical jam sessions as well, so we heard…

We ended up staying for only one night. We arrived in the morning, checked in, stayed the night and then left the next afternoon. The weather window looked good to leave and we didn’t want to risk getting stuck there for 3 weeks with the limited provisions we had left, plus another 700 mile sail. As soon as we arrived, Bajka and LA Cigale came to pick up the kids to do the Geocaching activity that was started a month or so earlier by another sailing family on S/Y Moya.

So after a evening potluck with music, and a morning of checking out the island, learning a bit from the rangers about the local medicinal plants, checking out the local feeding frenzy of sharks, then checking out of the country, we set sail for Tonga.

IMG_5113IMG_5109